Nov 6, 2020
Utilizing Crossover Sports in Athletic Training
Chris Wellman, North Idaho College basketball camps

Sports specialization for young athletes has become a controversial topic. 

Should young athletes devote all of their practice and game time to just one sport? There are some aspects of sports specialization that young athletes, their parents, and coaches need to consider. 

crossover sports
Photo: Wesley Sykes / Great American Media Services

Sports specialization is not always harmful to young athletes. Dedication to one sport will depend on an athlete’s personal goals, socialization needs, time available for practice, and psychological makeup. Do friends and family members play the sport? Excelling in a certain sport can become a family tradition. 

Young athletes may thrive just playing one sport if they feel they control their own destiny, and have some degree of choice with regard to time spent in participation. Being able to develop friendships with athletes that play the same sport can also be influential with regard to their time spent practicing. There will be some young athletes who just have higher levels of concentration than others, especially as they grow older.

Signs of stress in young athletes will indicate they need to take some time away from their primary sport. The parents and coaches of one-sport athletes should be concerned if they notice any of the following behaviors: 

  1. The athlete complains of minor injuries and fatigue. 
  2. Lack of enthusiasm for attending practices or games. 
  3. Inability to focus during practices. 

Players may become tired of being one-sport athletes. This does not mean they should never play their favorite sport again, just take some time away from it. The parents or coach of a young athlete can help them find a complimentary or crossover sport to participate in. 

Crossover sports can actually improve the way athletes play their primary sport because they require similar fundamental skills and movements — particularly building speed, power, and agility in athletes by replicating those crossover skills.  

» ALSO SEE: Strength Coach Roundtable Discussion

Examples of “Crossover Sports”: 

  1. Wrestling and Football Both sports require upper body strength, maintaining balance, and quick lateral movement. Additionally, both wrestling and football — especially in terms of line play — use leverage, hand strength, and downright brute strength to excel in-game. 
  2. Basketball and Soccer Fundamental passing strategies are nearly identical. Players pass the ball and run to an open space, “give and go”. Knowing the location of the ball is needed for defensive positioning in both sports. Defensive slide movements are similar and vital. 
  3. Tennis and Racquetball The similarities in using a racquet and keeping your eye on the ball are obvious. Similar footwork with short bursts of speed, both forward and backward is needed. And, not to mention, the singular nature of the sports requires mental toughness and self-reliance to succeed. 
  4. Hockey and Lacrosse Whether it’s shooting a slapshot from just within the blue line or snapping off a crank shot on the man-advantage, it takes a similar mastery of hand-eye coordination to excel at hockey and lacrosse. Add in the similarities of the playing surface layout, the importance of face-offs, and the player-friendly second assist and it’s easy to build up skills in either sport by playing the other. 
  5. Volleyball and Basketball Not only are both sports heavy on jumping and quick cuts — requiring strong ankles and knees — but both need constant communication on the court to be successful. Lateral movements and quickness are two necessary traits while blocking and the textbook defensive stance are also common similarities. 


Developing an understanding of crossover sports in athletic training can prove to be valuable for one-sport athletes. Athletes involved in sports specialization can use crossover sports as a means of preventing mental fatigue and overuse injuries. People will find that many sports are similar, with regard to fundamental skills and movements.

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